28th January 2018

Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 roundup part 2 – technology

Exciting developments for the automotive market are naturally the primary focus for us when it comes to the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), with technological advances often eventually trickling down to the vehicles driven by our fleet, young driver and other end users. In the second of our CES 2018 roundups, the emphasis is on wider technology for increasingly ‘smart’ homes, cities and inanimate objects, typically with the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) at their heart.

Starting with something small but ubiquitous, Chinese technology firm Vivo used CES 2018 to demonstrate a smartphone feature that it has managed to beat Apple and Samsung to the market with. Developed in conjunction with Synaptics, it’s the first time that in-display fingerprint sensing has been achieved, with existing fingerprint scanners typically positioned on the rear, front or sides of handsets and thereby taking up space and not proving quite as seamless as users would like. Vivo’s phone banishes such compromises and is set to be launched later this year.

For anyone who revels in supersized television but prefers minimalist living at the same time, LG’s latest move will enable walls to be liberated from 4K OLED screens with uncanny ease. Yes, in another world first, the 65-inch display showcased by LG at CES 2018 can be rolled up like a newspaper or poster, the extraordinarily thin and superbly crisp screen rising up out of and back down into the base, rather like an inverted projector. Rollable television screens like LG’s probably won’t be available for consumers to buy any time soon but it’s inevitable that the time will come.

On a slightly bizarre note, Kohler exhibited a $6,000 talking toilet called Numi, its voice-activated features including a foot warmer, a deodorizer and an advanced bidet with different actions, plus customisable mood lighting and even music playback.

Although the science behind this particular product is widely perceived as weak, anyone concerned about the effects of radiofrequency radiation in today’s gadget-filled world may have their interest piqued by French startup Spartan’s underwear lined with silver to block out 99% of waves. Touted as a Faraday cage for men, each pair will retail for around $45.

Security conscious homeowners might like the idea behind the ‘Kevin’ burglar deterrent from Swiss company Mitipi, a fabric-look smart speaker that simulates authentic domestic sounds to create the impression somebody is home, from running water and furniture doors opening to the radio playing and people conversing.

Meanwhile, wearables met neuroscience at CES 2018 as the Belfast-made Modius weight-loss headset provided an easy route for anyone struggling to stick to their New Year’s resolutions. By stimulating the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls fat storage and metabolism, the device pledges to boost the burning of calories and to reduce appetite, effectively enabling wearers to lose weight without dieting, while doing something far from strenuous such as curling up on the sofa with a book.

“CES 2018 is where you’ll start caring about 5G. This year, the world’s biggest consumer electronics show will shine a light on the next-gen wireless technology that will shape the coming decade”, CNET exclaimed in the run-up. Ahead of last year’s CES, Qualcomm’s CEO described 5G as “the biggest thing since the introduction of electricity” and as well as the obvious speed advantages, such technology is also expected to deliver greater reliability, bandwidth and latency.

While some of the domestic products showcased at CES 2018 were arguably superfluous, such as robotic dogs and pillows that simulate human warmth and interaction, a number of technologies with serious intent were presented. Take XFiltra from UK-based Xeros Technologies as an example. With around 60% of clothes containing synthetic fibres that can easily pass through wastewater treatment sites and pose a risk to the environment, the firm’s filter, which is compatible with any washing machine, removes these potentially harmful fibres.

Although it may initially seem to pander to lazier consumers, the Axis Gear retrofits to loop-chain window blinds and enables one-touch operation, its smart connectivity and compatibility with Smart Things and voice control systems meaning that people with disabilities or mobility problems can more easily moderate the light in their homes.

More widely, 5G and IoT connectivity will play a huge role in enabling increasing numbers of cities around the world to become truly connected and ‘smart’. Bosch, for instance, is developing community-based parking whereby sensors will allow vehicles to tell each other where vacant parking spaces are, and the firm is also deeply involved in other smart city solutions ranging from virtual powerplants and advanced air monitoring to connected buildings and efficient energy storage, all communicated in some form at CES 2018.

Gadget lovers with a penchant for an active outdoor lifestyle will be impressed with Casio’s latest G-Shock addition, the Rangeman GPR-B1000. Not only is this smartwatch shock and water-resistant to 200m and fitted with pressure, altitude and temperature sensors, but it’s also equipped with solar charging and wireless inductive charging capabilities, the latter thanks to its ceramic base.

Drones, too, were showcased at CES 2018, from the AirSelfie 2, the Tello and the AEE Selfly that are aimed at taking aerial selfies, to models designed for use by professional photographers, such as the Yuneec Typhoon H Plus. An aquatic drone even got presented in the form of the PowerDolphin that can take 4K photos and videos while gliding through the water one minute, before delivering lifejackets to stricken swimmers the next, or indeed mapping the surface of lakes or seas using in-built sonar technology. Oh, and it’s also fitted with an automatic fish sensor and the ability to release a line and bait at the opportune moment – perfect for amateur fishers who want to enhance their image.

Whether it be serious connected technology developments that will enable emerging smart cities to thrive, to seemingly trivial gadgets that will no doubt leave their owners and onlookers impressed and bemused, CES 2018 once again provided a superb taste of trends and cutting-edge advancements that are changing the way we live.